Bremen school board boss calls up concerns about Canning
Debi Stearns wants to remind voters why her predecessor, Larry Canning, was ousted as the president of the Bremen High School District 228 Board of Education just a few months years after being elected.
The board voted 4-3 to remove Canning after a series of allegations that ranged from threatening the employment of the superintendent of the district, Bill Kendall, to falsely accusing fellow board member Mark Johnson of making murder threats to other members.
Johnson campaigned under Canning’s Parents for Progress slate in 2015 but broke ranks once he got elected and wanted to vote how he wished.
“Larry wants to have a position that he thinks is powerful, just so he can believe he is powerful,” Stearns told the South Cook News. “Though the president of a board shouldn't be, because he is only one of seven, he acted like a board of one.”
The board voted to oust Canning on the grounds that he changed legal counsel for the board without consulting the other members, in addition to other charges.
“Mr. Canning selected the new attorney on his own without any interviews and without providing sufficient information about the new firm,” a report documenting Canning’s charges of misconduct revealed. “No other firms were interviewed.”
The same report also said he made his decision based on emails from the public that he referred to in open session. Board member Leslie Jones filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the emails, but Canning did not produce them.
“He also demanded that a special ceremony be held for his son that his son didn't fit the criteria for,” Stearns said.
Canning was also accused of questionable campaign practices, such as using his Bremen Township government vehicle issued for his work as a highway worker to campaign for his slate.
Johnson and board Vice President Kristine Resler signed publicly notarized affidavits identifying other potential improprieties they say Canning committed during their campaign with him. The accusations include potential wide-ranging campaign finance violations.
Stearns and her slate contend that Canning is tied to Maggie Crotty, the Bremen Township supervisor, and a network that encompasses Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
According to campaign finance disclosures from the state Board of Elections, Canning’s wife, Karen, donated to Citizens for Maggie Crotty in 2014 just months before he was given a position at the Bremen Township Highway Department.
Stearns said Canning is an associate of Ron Szabo, Crotty’s embattled former highway commissioner who was disciplined for taking property tax exemptions he was not entitled to.
“It's interesting to note that Larry's running mates are also tied to Ron Szabo/Maggie Crotty/Bremen Township,” Stearns said. “Ed Maggio is a neighbor of Ron Szabo's. Tina Kessens works at Together We Cope. The Director of Together We Cope is Kathy Straniero, a township trustee. So, why are three people tied to the township interested in being on our board?”